8.1.15

Mycenae

http://ancienthellas-greece.blogspot.gr/search/label/MycenaeSite
Mycenae is under protection of UNESCO.

Mycenae, Modern Greek Mykínes,  prehistoric Greek city in the Peloponnese, celebrated by Homer as “broad-streeted” and “golden.” According to legend, Mycenae was the capital of Agamemnon, the Achaean king who sacked the city of Troy. It was set, as Homer says, “in a nook of Árgos,” with a natural citadel formed by the ravines between the mountains of Hagios Elias (Ayios Ilias) and Zara, and furnished with a fine perennial spring named Perseia (after Perseus, the legendary founder of Mycenae). It is the chief Late Bronze Age site in mainland Greece. Systematic excavation of the site began in 1840, but the most celebrated discoveries there were those of Heinrich Schliemann. The term Mycenaean is often used in reference to the Late Bronze Age of mainland Greece in general and of the islands except Crete (Modern Greek: Kríti).

There was a settlement at Mycenae in the Early Bronze Age, but all structures of that or of the succeeding Middle Bronze Age have, with insignificant exceptions, been swept away by later buildings. The existing palace must have been reconstructed in the 14th century bce. The whole area is studded with tombs that have yielded many art objects and artifacts.
From the Lion Gate at the entrance to Mycenae’s citadel, a graded road 12 feet (3.6 metres) wide leads to a ramp supported by a five-terrace wall and thence to the southwestern entrance of the palace. The latter is composed of two main blocks—one originally covering the top of the hill but largely destroyed on the erection of the Hellenistic temple and the other occupying the lower terrace to the south banked up artificially on its western edge. The two blocks were separated by two parallel east-west corridors with storerooms opening off them. The existence of a palace shrine on the upper terrace seems implied by discoveries of a magnificent ivory group consisting of two goddesses and an infant god with fragments of painted tripod altars and other objects.

At the southwestern corner of the later palace, the west lobby led to the grand staircase of 22 steps, a landing, and another 17 or 18 steps culminating in a small forecourt that afforded entrance to the great court and to a square room immediately to the north. There an oblong area with a raised plaster border has been interpreted by some scholars as the base for a throne where the king sat in audience. Other scholars, however, have regarded it as a hearth and the room as a guest chamber; the throne might then have stood on the right of the megaron (great central hall), a part that has now disappeared. Both the porch and the main portion of the megaron had floors of painted stucco with borders of gypsum slabs and with frescoes on the walls, one apparently representing a battle in front of a citadel. In the centre was a round plaster hearth enclosed by four wooden columns, possibly implying the existence of a clerestory. The 10 plaster layers of the hearth and 4 of the floor suggest that this hall was in use for a considerable time. The roof was probably flat. East of the corridor lay a series of rooms, the most interesting known from its decoration as “the room of the curtain frescoes.”

Within the citadel were various houses of retainers. The most imposing, “the house of the columns,” rose to three stories in height. South of the grave circle lie the ruins of the “ramp house,” the “south house,” and the “house of Tsountas.” Another building, known as “the granary,” from the carbonized barley, wheat, and vetches found in its basement, was erected in the 13th century bce between the Cyclopean citadel wall and one of the grave circles; it continued in use up to the destruction of the city by fire about 1100 bce.
The Late Mycenaean period (1400–1100 bce) was one of great prosperity in the Peloponnese. After the destruction of Knossos, on Minoan Crete, Mycenae became the dominant power in the Aegean, where its fleet must have controlled the nearer seas and colonized the Cyclades, Crete, Cyprus, the Dodecanese, northern Greece and Macedonia, western Asia Minor, Sicily, and some sites in Italy. Mycenaean, rather than Minoan, goods could be found in the markets of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Mycenaean raiders harried the coasts of the Egyptians and the Hittites, and at a date traditionally supposed to be 1180, but by some scholars now estimated at about 1250 bce, Agamemnon and his followers sacked the great city of Troy.

In the 16th century bce, Mycenaean art was temporarily dominated by the influences of Minoan art. Cretan artists must have immigrated to the mainland, and local varieties of all the Minoan arts arose at Mycenae. Minoan naturalism and exuberance were tempered by Greek formality and sense of balance, which were already visible in Middle Helladic painted wares and were later to culminate in the splendid Geometric pottery of the Dipylon cemetery at Athens.

Until the mid-20th century, Mycenaean literacy was attested only by a few symbols painted on vases, but in 1952 the excavation of “the house of the oil merchant” and “the house of the wine merchant” outside the walls disclosed a number of tablets in the Linear B script first identified at Knossos (Knosós) and later interpreted by the English architect and cryptographer Michael Ventris to be an earlier form of the Greek language.
Mycenae was burned and destroyed, perhaps by invading Dorians, about 1100 bce, but the outer city was not deserted; graves of the Protogeometric and Geometric periods have been excavated. Mycenae evidently continued to exist as a small city-state, and the walls were not pulled down. Early in the 6th century bce a temple, from which one fine relief survives, was erected; in 480 Mycenae sent 400 men to fight against the Persians at Thermopylae, and its men were at Plataea in 479. In 470, however, its aggressive neighbour Árgos, which had been neutral in the Persian war, took an ignoble revenge by besieging Mycenae, and in 468 Árgos destroyed it. In the Hellenistic period Mycenae revived, and a new temple was built on the crown of the acropolis; in 235 bce the Argive tyrant Aristippus was killed there, and the city wall was repaired. Nabis of Sparta carried off some of the young men about 195 bce, and an inscription from 194 refers to their detention. A few Roman objects have been found, but when the Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias visited the site about ad 160, he found it in ruins.

History


 Mycenae 'Rich in Gold', the kingdom of mythical Agamemnon, first sung by Homer in his epics, is the most important and richest palatial centre of the Late Bronze Age in Greece. Its name was given to one of the greatest civilizations of Greek prehistory, the Mycenaean civilization, while the myths related to its history have inspired poets and writers over many centuries, from the Homeric epics and the great tragedies of the Classical period to contemporary literary and artistic creation. Perseus, son of Zeus and Dana?, daughter of Akrisios, king of Argos and descendant of Danaos, is traditionally considered as its mythical founder. Pausanias (2, 16, 3) reports that Perseus named the new city Mycenae after the pommel (mykes) of his sword, which fell there, or after the Perseia spring, discovered there under the root of a mushroom (mykes). According to the myth, Perseus's descendants reigned at Mycenae for three generations. After the last of them, Eurystheas, died childless, the Mycenaeans chose Atreus, son of Pelops, father of Agamemnon and Menelaos, as their king.
 
Mycenae was founded between two tall conical hills, Profitis Ilias (805 m.) and Sara (660 m.), on a low plateau dominating the Argive plain and controlling both the land and sea routes. The site was first occupied in the seventh millennium BC (Neolithic period). Very little remains of this early settlement because of continuous re-occupation up until the historical period. Most of the monuments visible today were erected in the Late Bronze Age, between 1350 and 1200 BC, when the site was at its peak. In the early second millennium BC a small settlement existed on the hill and a cemetery with simple burials on its southwest slope. Grave Circle B, a stone-built funerary enclosure containing monumental graves with rich grave gifts, indicates that the first families of rulers and aristocrats appeared at Mycenae at approximately 1700 BC. This social structure developed further in the early Mycenaean period, c. 1600 BC, when a large central building, a second funerary enclosure (Grave Circle A) and the first tholos tombs were erected on the hill. The finds from these monuments show that the powerful Mycenaean rulers participated in a complex network of commercial exchange with other parts of the Mediterranean.
The construction of the palace and fortification wall currently visible began c. 1350 BC (Late Helladic IIIA2). The latter saw three construction phases, the first wall being built of Cyclopean masonry. A new wall was erected to the west and south of the early one approximately one hundred years later (Late Helladic IIIB1), together with the Lion Gate, the citadel's monumental entrance, and its bastion. Included in the newly fortified area were the city's religious centre and Grave Circle A, which was refurbished and used for ancestral cults. The famous tholos tomb known as the 'Treasure of Atreus', with its gigantic lintels and tall beehive vault, was probably built during the same period. At approximately 1200 BC, in the Late Helladic IIIB-C period, following a large destruction probably caused by an earthquake, the walls were extended to the northeast so as to include the subterranean well. Successive destructions and fires led to the site's final abandonment c. 1100 BC.
After the collapse of the palatial system and of the 'Mycenaean Koine', the hill was sparsely inhabited until the Classical period. Meanwhile, several local cults of heroes developed in the area, fuelled by Mycenae's fame, which the Homeric poems spread throughout Greece. A temple dedicated to Hera or Athena was erected on the top of the hill in the Archaic period. In 468 BC, after the Persian Wars, in which Mycenae took part, the town was conquered by Argos and had part of its fortification wall destroyed. In the Hellenistic period, the Argives founded a 'village' on the hill, repaired the prehistoric walls and the Archaic temple, and erected a small theatre over the dromos of the tholos tomb of Clytaemnestra. The town was abandoned in subsequent centuries and was already in ruins when Pausanias visited it in the second century AD.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the impressive Cyclopean walls of the Mycenaean acropolis attracted many travellers and antiquaries who did not hesitate to loot the site, taking advantage of the indifference and greed of the Turkish authorities. In 1837, after the Greek Independence, the archaeological site of Mycenae came under the jurisdiction of the Greek Archaeological Society, whose representative K. Pittakis cleared the Lion Gate in 1841. In 1876, after opening several small test trenches in 1874, Heinrich Schliemann began excavating Grave Circle A, where he uncovered five graves. His work was continued in 1876-1877 by trench supervisor P. Stamatakis who uncovered the sixth grave. In subsequent years C. Tsountas (1884-1902), D. Evangelidis (1909), G. Rosenwaldt (1911), A. Keramopoulos (1917) and A. J. B. Wace (1920-1923, 1939, 1950-1957) excavated the palace and cemeteries. In 1952-1955 I. Papadimitriou and G. Mylonas of the Greek Archaeological Society excavated Grave Circle B and several houses, while G. Mylonas with N. Verdelis of the Archaeological Service excavated parts of the settlement. Excavations by the British School at Athens under Lord W. Taylor uncovered the religious centre, while further investigations were conducted by the Greek Archaeological Society under G. Mylonas and S. Iakovidis in 1959 and 1969-1974. In 1950-1955 A. Orlandos and E. Stikas supervised the restoration of the Tomb of Clytaemnestra, the palace, Grave Circle B and the area surrounding the Lion Gate. The project for the 'Restoration-Conservation-Presentation of the Monuments of the Acropolis of Mycenae and its Greater Area', begun in 1998, was overseen initially by the Work Group for the Restoration of the Monuments of Epidaurus and subsequently by the Mycenae Committee, created in 1999. 

Description

 
The archaeological site of Mycenae comprises the fortified acropolis and surrounding funerary and habitation sites, which are located mainly to its west and southwest. Most of the visible monuments date to the centre's great floruit, from 1350 to 1200 BC.

Great Cyclopean walls surround the almost triangular acropolis, which is accessed from the northwest through the famous Lion Gate, the symbol of the Mycenaean rulers' power. The gate was named after the two opposing lions carved in relief and set into the relieving triangle, a typical feature of Mycenaean architecture, over the door. To the right of the Lion Gate are the remains of a building dubbed the 'Granary', because its basement contained carbonized grain. South of the Granary is Grave Circle A, whose six large shaft graves contained numerous gold objects and other works of art. Beyond this is a series of buildings, possibly the residences of high officials: the House of the Warrior Krater, the Ramp House, the South House and the Citadel House. The citadel's religious centre, along the south fortification wall, includes the Temple of the Idols, the House of the Frescoes, Tsountas's House and the Priest's House. A staircase and a large processional street connected these shrines to the palace.

The palace, symbol of the power of Mycenaean rulers, dominates the citadel's highest point. It sprawls over artificial terraces and was reached by a large ramp beginning at the Lion Gate. The main palace building includes a large courtyard, a guesthouse and, at its very centre, the Mycenaean megaron. The latter consisted of three parts: a columned porch, a vestibule (prodomos) and the main chamber (domos), which housed the ruler's throne. The palace also included workshops and storerooms, both related to the palatial monopoly of goods, cult buildings and houses, which probably belonged to high officials.

At the northeast corner of the fortifications is the entrance to the underground spring, built during the third construction phase to safeguard access from the interior of the citadel during sieges. A corbelled corridor leads to the underground cistern located eighteen metres below, outside the fortification walls. Near the entrance to the cistern, to its west, is the citadel's second gate, the so-called North Gate, of similar construction as the Lion Gate, only smaller.

Outside the fortification walls, west of the Lion Gate, is Grave Circle B, which encloses fourteen shaft-graves. Four of the nine tholos tombs discovered so far at Mycenae are also located in this area. The so-called tombs of the Lions, Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra, and the Treasury of Atreus, further south, illustrate the development of this type of funerary structure, the latter being its most perfect example, with its enormous lintels, imposing vault and richly decorated fa?ade.

Approximately fifty metres south of Grave Circle B, next to the modern asphalt road, are the remains of four buildings, the so-called houses of the Shields, of the Oil-Merchant, of the Sphinxes and the West House. Several inscribed clay tablets discovered in the House of the Oil-Merchant mention workers, oil and perfumes. These indicate that this was probably a workshop specializing in the production of perfumes and perfumed oils, which the Mycenaeans exported.

Traces of the highly developed road network, which connected Mycenae with the other large centres in the area, are still preserved around the citadel. One of these roads with its bridge is visible near the cemetery of the modern village, while a second road along the northern fortification wall still shows tracks made by ancient chariot wheels.

Site Monuments


Treasure of Atreus
 The Treasury of Atreus or Tomb of Agamemnon is an impressive "tholos" tomb on the Panagitsa Hill at Mycenae, Greece, constructed during the Bronze Age around 1250 BC. The lintel stone above the doorway weighs 120 tons, with approximate dimensions 8.3 x 5.2 x 1.2m, the largest in the world. The tomb was used for an unknown period. Mentioned by Pausanias, it was still visible in 1879 when the German archeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered the shaft graves under the 'agora' in the Acropolis at Mycenae. The tomb has probably no relationship with either Atreus or Agamemnon, as archaeologists believe that the sovereign buried there ruled at an earlier date than the two; it was named thus by Heinrich Schliemann and the name has been used ever since.

Subterranean cistern
The corbelled passage is wide enough for two people to stand side by side. It leads to the underwater cistern, 18 meters below the surface, through a steep decenting path paved with stone. The cistern itself at the end of the path is a quadrilateral roofed shaft and collected water through clay pipes, from the natural spring that lay outside the citadel.

Religion Centre of Mycenae
Situated on the southwest point of the citadel, this building complex was created for religious purposes. As well as the existence architectural elements supporting this, artefacts used in religious ceremonies have also been found here. READ MORE HERE

Cyclopean Walls
The characteristic of the Mycenaean walls is that they are made of huge limestone boulders, which have been fitted together rather roughly. As these boulders are very big in size, the ancient people believed that it was the Cyclops who built these gates, as the thought it impossible for men to move such big rocks. That is why these walls were named Cyclopean Walls. Notable is that the hammer was rarely used for the construction of these walls and thus they fit very roughly together. The cracks or gaps between the boulders were filled with smaller limestone. Dating since the 13th century AD, these Cyclopean walls are the characteristic feature of the Mycenaean architecture. Archaeologists have noticed that this type of architecture can be seen in other Mycenaean towns, too, such as Tyrins or Argos. However, Harry Thurston Peck, in 1898, divided Cyclopean architecture in four styles. The first style consists of stones of various size filled in between with smaller stones. The second style consists of polygonal stones that fit precisely. The third style is characterized by stone of unequal size but of the same height and the fourth is known for its rectangular stones of unequal height. The walls in Mycenae match to the third style.

Grave Circle B
 Grave Circle B at Mycenae was part of the prehistoric cemetery at Mycenae (end of 17th cent. 16th cent. BC) together with Grave Circle A, and today is situated" outside the fortified citadel. It was excavated by I. Papadimitriou and G. Mylonas in 1952-1954. Surrounded by a Cyclopean dry-stone wall twenty-eight meters in diameter, it comprises fourteen large shaft graves similar to those of Grave Circle A, for members of the royal family, and twelve smaller, shallow graves possibly for courtiers. Several graves were marked with vertical stone stelai, five of which were found in situ. Those stelai with relief decoration belonged to male graves, while the undecorated ones marked female graves.

The graves in Circle Grave B, most of which were discovered unlooted, contained approximately thirty-five inhumations of men, women and children. The men were aged between twenty-three and fifty-five years, and the women between thirty and thirty-seven. Most male remains bore evidence of wounds and healed skull and spinal injuries, which together with indications of great muscular mass, prove that they were often involved in violent conflict.

The grave gifts from Grave Circle B are similar to those from Grave Circle A, although less opulent. They do include, however, some quite important artefacts, such as the death-mask made of electrum (gold and silver alloy) and the amethyst seal stone with a representation of a male figure from Grave Gamma, and the duck-shaped rock-crystal kymbe (elongated shallow vessel) from Grave Omicron. The grave gifts are both local, that is of Middle Helladic tradition, and imported from Minoan Crete and the Cyclades. This amalgam of diverse elements characterizes the period of the Mycenae shaft graves and contributed to the formation of the Mycenaean civilization.

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